Session 1 TOWARD THE WORST OF ALL POSSIBLE PASTS?
Location: FUGA Budapest Centre of Architecture, Petőfi Sándor u. 5., 1052 Budapest.
What was foreshadowed with the spectacular failure of the Arab Spring has become fully transparent with the Ukrainian crisis and alleged return of the Cold War. Designed as the last progressive movement in what political scientist Francis Fukuyama once described as “the museum of history,” the process of the so-called transition to democracy, generated by the collapse of communism, has finally come to a standstill. Today, its whole teleological edifice lies in ruin. Are democracy and capitalism with a “human face” just other “dreamworlds” of modernity’s short afterlife, now revealing themselves to be nightmares from which we are not able to wake up? How might we sustain hope in a world that desperately struggles to prevent the return of the worst of all possible pasts?
In modern times, history was an ignorant master. It was not a story of past events, but an event in itself, which is why it was impossible to learn from. Yet, for Roman historiographers, the Greek word istoria still implied testimony—a personally experienced history, whether our own or someone else’s—thus rendering it a teacher of life. Is memory today, for which history itself has become a past to be remembered, no longer an expression of longing for the lost experience of history that one was able to learn from? Could this be the reason why memory reaches out to the realms of art and performance, to re-enactments and body movements, so as to teach without possessing, sharing, or transmitting any knowledge—striving, that is, to be the cause of knowledge and not its owner? Indeed, art does not produce any knowledge of the past. But could it possibly turn the past into a teacher of life, a magistra vitae?
Session III PRESENT PASTS: MEMORY, OBLIVION, TRIANON
Long gone are the times when the past had its proper
place in our historical consciousness. Moreover, the historical consciousness that
had once guaranteed our orientation within the time-spaces of modernity has
evaporated into a myriad of memory cultures that hover over post-historical
reality like a fog. It is thus no wonder that one gets easily lost or mistakes
various ghosts of the past for the contemporary. In today’s political reality,
previously opposing forces that once mutually excluded one another, such as
memory and oblivion, often act as brothers in arms. Is this not the case in
present-day Hungary, where the memory of the Treaty of Trianon threatens to
divide the living even more deeply than it had divided the dead? Are the
traumatic effects of this event a legacy of the past or a brand new product of
contemporary power struggles? How could we prevent alleged traumas of the past
from turning into much worse traumas in the future?